Later that evening, Cassie dropped by the Lane-Kent penthouse. Jason was already there; he’d texted her that Kala was home a day earlier than expected, and of course he’d rushed through his homework to see her. Cassie had smiled to read that text. Jason’s adoration of his twin sister was profound, something that might’ve made other girls jealous. Cassie sometimes wished she’d grown up with a sister, but that was it. She had two pretty awesome sisters of her own, now.
Jason had let her know that Kala was alone, the rest of her band settled in at their own homes or in temporary lodging for the night, so Cassie made her landing on the balcony and knocked on the French doors. She saw Jason coming to open them, but Kala beat him to it. It wasn’t as if the two girls had never met before, Kala ducking in to help out from time to time, but this was the first time Cassie had ever seen her in civvies and minus her domino. “Hey there,” Jason’s twin said brightly, and before she even crossed the threshold added, “So I hear you’re dating my brother.”
“Yeah, I am,” Cassie replied, just as lightly. She’d been forewarned about Kala’s tendency to chase off her brother’s girlfriends, and took a moment to study the other girl. They’d never met out of uniform before, and Cassie had only ever seen her in a mask. As she walked in, she noted the iridescent violet lipstick, the artsy eyeliner, and the crushed velvet dress paired with spiky heels. Kala looked almost dressed for a date, but as a Goth singer, this was probably her ‘normal’ look. The photos Cassie had seen of her shows had been much more involved.
The frank appraisal got a mischievous grin from Kala, one brow quirking up. Arms crossed, responding in kind, she drawled, “Well, just so you know, there are some ground rules. One, if you turn out to be a spy for Luthor, then I’m kicking your ass.”
And her brother played directly into her hands. “Kala!” Jason groaned. “Give me a break on this one, please? There’s no point in you acting like a pitbull this time. We both know who she is. Diana knows her, for crying out loud. Lay off. ” He shot Cassie an apologetic look, but she waved him off.
“If I ever hire on with someone like Lex Luthor, you have my permission and encouragement to kick my ass,” she replied, laughing.
“Good answer. I’ll call that one a pass. See, Jase, I’m being lenient this time.” Kala smirked. “Two, don’t be a fangirl. There’s really nothing that makes dinner more awkward than that. Dad might be Superman, but Can-Head here is Super-dork, and I have photographic evidence. Like about nineteen years-worth. Not all things he knows about either.”
Cassie couldn’t help laughing as Jason spluttered a protest. “Trust me, I worked with him for a long time before we started dating. Your brother’s pretty awesome, but we’re too good friends for me to fangirl over him.”
“Yeah, okay. That’s a pass on round two then. For the record, I think he’s actually pretty awesome, too. I just don’t tell him much because it would kill his need to be humble,” Kala admitted. And then her smile grew positively wicked. “Last rule: we’re twins, so we share everything. Got it?”
And that must be Test Number Three, from her boyfriend’s reaction. Jason groaned loudly, and grabbed Kala around the neck, trying to give her a noogie. Kala shrieked and slapped at him, kicking his shins as he moved to scoop his sister up. “Ow! Ow, you big dork! Stop it, Dopey!”
Cassie just laughed at them both, until Kala managed to wrench herself around to grab Jason and throw him to the floor. From another room came a stern, “No powers in the house!” in a voice Cassie knew well—one for whom being a fangirl was completely justified.
That was enough to stop the twins in mid-tussle. “Sorry, Daddy,” Kala called back contritely, and Jason gave her the stink-eye as he got up.
“Cassie, I’m sorry. She does that all the time.”
Kala was running a hand through her hair, giving him an arch look right back. “No one said you had to pick me up like a caveman, Lizardboy!”
“Hey, no big deal,” Cassie replied with a shrug. “Themyscira and all, it’s not a shock. Besides, sharing is caring, right?”
Jason just stared at her, dumbfounded, while Kala smirked. “Well you know with Amazons, it’s practically part of the image.”
The blonde couldn’t resist teasing back. Now that there was a chance to actually talk to her, Jason’s sister was actually pretty hilarious. “Can’t let our brand down.”
“Don’t egg her on,” Jason said, looking perplexed.
“What makes you think she’s egging me on?” Kala retorted. “Maybe you stole one of my girlfriends back in high school, so now I’ll steal one of yours.”
Cassie cut in with, “Nah, I wouldn’t let her steal me, rock star or not. We’d just work out a timeshare. After all, twins share everything.” She figured wit and sass would serve her better than politeness with Kala.
By then Jason looked thoroughly confused. His twin, however, tipped her head back and laughed. “You are officially Kala-approved,” she said, offering a hand for a high-five. “You’re actually as cool out of uniform as you are in. Maybe Dopey managed to get something right this time.” Cassie slapped her palm, grinning.
Parental approval was important, but a twin sister could really make her life hell if they didn’t get along.
Kala woke up early the next morning, as usual, and slipped out of bed. She pulled on pajama bottoms underneath her nightgown and headed into the hall toward the living room. The apartment was still dark, and out of habit she tuned in to listen. Jason’s heartbeat, slow and sleepy, came from his room across the hall. In the master bedroom, Mom’s was equally soothing, the intrepid reporter still fast asleep. Two quicker beats came up the hall toward her as Chewie and Bagel approached, tails wagging rapidly. They weren’t whining, though, so they’d already been out.
That meant the only other morning person in the household was awake, which didn’t surprise Kala much. She snagged a muffin out of the kitchen and went out to the balcony, checking carefully with telescopic vision. The sky was beginning to lighten, the stars fading, and Kala’s internal clock told her the sun would be up in mere minutes. Already the eastern horizon glowed.
She wouldn’t miss this moment for the world. No one else was awake and looking in this direction, so Kala took off, soaring high above the city. As always, the pure joy of flight thrilled her. The only thing that came close was singing on stage, her voice the power cable connecting her to the immense generator that was the audience.
Five miles above Metropolis and out of the way of commercial airline flight paths, Kala came to a hover beside her father, who hung in the air with his cape rippling behind him. As always, pride filled up her chest just knowing he was her dad. She’d never forget how she had first felt when she realized where the other half of her heritage came from. Her Dad the hero. He looked over at her then and smiled. “Good morning.”
“It will be,” Kala said, still nibbling her muffin as she returned the smile. Any moment now, the sun would rise. Actually the earth would turn enough that the first rays of sunlight spilled across them; Kala had been in a position to see that quite clearly, something few people other than astronauts ever got to see.
“Just the pajamas?” he asked with a dubious look.
“One, no one’s supposed to know that the Blur can fly,” Kala told him, grinning. “Two, if anyone’s looking they’ll think you’re holding me up somehow.”
He nodded. “Just be careful.” That was something they all had to be, all the time. To Kala it was natural to float in midair, but anyone else seeing her could’ve caused havoc with her father’s secret identity. Soon enough they’d be out of range of anyone’s eyesight.
The horizon brightened, the sky turning pink and orange and then fiery red. The first slice of impossibly-brilliant gold peeked over the edge, and Kala narrowed her eyes to slits against it. That gorgeous light smacked into her like the waves at the private beach in the Bahamas, only this was a wave that moved through her instead of moving her. Kala tipped her head back and sighed, echoing her father.
For long moments they hovered in the sweet radiance, and then Kal-El shook himself slightly. “Ready?” he asked.
“Always,” Kala laughed, and they both rocketed upward. She was allowed to fly pretty much anywhere she wanted unaccompanied, but this she could only do with Dad by her side.
Ten miles, taking a deep breath while passing through the troposphere, and then into the bitter cold of the stratosphere. Here the sunlight was more intense and less filtered, and it gave Kala a fresh burst of energy. She rose higher, thirty miles above the city below, and broke into the mesosphere, which made the sub-freezing stratosphere seem positively balmy.
That was Kala’s limit; she’d gone into the ionosphere only once, and then at dire need. The solar radiation she’d absorbed from it had repaired the damage kryptonite had done to her, rectified four days of total sun deprivation, and still left her with an excess charge that took a week to dissipate. No, fifty miles above the earth was just fine for Kala.
From up here, the planet’s curvature was clearly visible, and everything below looked so much smaller. Roads, buildings, and boundaries disappeared; at this hour most of the world beneath her feet was a complicated tracery of lights. And to the east, the sun burned in all its magnificence. Kala threw her head back, her eyes tightly shut, her arms outspread, letting that purer radiance soak into her. Perfect.
Eventually, though, she could hold her breath no longer, and dropped back to breathable atmosphere. Kala hovered in the rising sunlight, comfortable and happy here as she was in few other places. A few minutes later, her father dropped down to her level. They remained in comfortable silence for a long while, until Kala sighed heavily. The last thing she wanted to do was put a damper on this rare moment, but he ought to know and she badly needed the reassurance. “The nightmares are back, Dad.”
Kal-El sighed too, reaching out to place a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “Stress, you think?” he asked. They never talked about what she dreamed about—drowning, sometimes, and sometimes the evil green light of kryptonite radiation, and once in a while the voice of General Zod—but he knew she dreamed things that haunted her. And she had always been unwilling to tell him, her expression utterly miserable when she did. Only with Jason did she discuss the content of those dreams, and some not even with him.
Leaning into the touch, not realizing how badly she had needed it, Kala replied slowly. “Stress and … generally feeling like I’m not getting anything useful done. I mean, we have a viable band now, and everything looks good on that front. We’re getting closer and closer. But the touring…. It’s hard, Daddy. I got a rewards points membership with Hilton so I could stay in Hampton Inns because they’re usually pretty good, and now I’ve memorized the room layout. I got up from a nap at Lana’s and was confused because the sink was behind the bathroom door instead of outside it.”
“Traveling that much is stressful, but I thought you enjoyed it.” Kala loved her father for his patience, for the way he made her feel like he’d take all day to get to the bottom of this with her if that was what she needed.
With the sunlight bright on her face, she could continue. “I do, but it’s a lot of work, too. People don’t realize that. And … it’s not just the tour. I feel like things are coming apart again. Jase and Elise are in college, and all the capes know him and love him. Plus Jason is dating a demigoddess now, and I just broke up with the biggest mistake of my romantic career a couple months ago. I have Dustin, and he’s a total catch, but really I’m just a singer who moonlights a little bit. A singer for a garage band. Compared to Jason, Hero to the People and all. Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing with my life is right. I want it, I really want it, but…”
A long pause then, and Kala knew he was thinking. Kal-El rarely answered a serious question quickly, and he pondered this one for long enough that she began to worry about the answer. “You know I wanted you to go to college,” he said quietly. “But this is your dream, Kal. This is what you wanted since you were seven years old. It’s not going to fall into your lap, you’ll definitely have to work at it. But I honestly believe you have the talent and the determination to succeed. And if, after another year, you decide you don’t want it, you can go to college like you told me.”
“Yeah,” Kala sighed. “I know part of it is getting a job, which makes me hate myself a little. But I already went there, remember? I do not want to work retail right now, with the holiday season coming up soon. I don’t really want to work food service, either, it’s more hell than retail. I know it sounds really petty, but sometimes it’s too hard to live a life that mundane. Then again, what are you going to do without a college education? So, yeah, walking in circles. Not sure what I’m going to do in that corner.”
“What about Dustin?” Kal-El asked.
She chuckled. “Yeah, him too. Dad, you know I love him. I love Dustin so much. I mean, he’s basically the perfect guy. Who else would get on a plane and join up with the tour just because he heard I was stressed and depressed? With no expectation of us going out, either. But I’m so afraid I’m going to lose him. He’s going to try staying in the suburbs, but … Smallville will always be home to him. Remember the last time he stayed, that one summer? He was so unhappy. And Smallville is never going to be more than a short-term safe haven to me. I just can’t live in that world all the time. We both know that.”
Kala loved Smallville, and not just because some of her favorite people lived there. There was a sweetness and simplicity there that recharged her batteries. However, she knew she couldn’t live there. Every visit resulted in months of gossip, and Kala was too much an iconoclast to ever settle down and fit in. She would chafe at the restraints and want to change things, which ironically would ruin everything she liked about Smallville if she succeeded, and frustrate her endlessly if she failed.
“I’d love to see you and Dustin happy together for a long time,” Kal-El told her, squeezing her shoulder slightly.
Kala let herself drift sideways until she was pressed up against him, his arm around her shoulders. “Me too. I just … I don’t think it’s gonna be easy for me. Not like Jase. He’s always known what he wants and how to get it. He knows who he is and who he wants to be.”
“Jason doesn’t know that well,” her father corrected. “That’s one of those things you’ve always thought about him, honey, and you’ve always had a hard time seeing clearly. The one thing he wanted most walked away from him. And he’s had to make a lot of little changes while you were gone.”
The one thing was Elise, of course. Kala sighed again. “Yeah, I know It sucks and I hate it that Elise had to go, but she had good reasons.”
“She did. Elise has her own life. Who knows where it will lead her? My point is, Jason’s trying to find himself, too. You’re not alone in this, I promise. Kala, you’re only turning twenty in a month. You have time, still. Be easier on yourself.” Kal-El turned and kissed her hair. “I didn’t know quite who I was at twenty, you know. Neither did your mother. It takes time, sweetheart. It takes time for anyone.”
Kala let the sunlight and her father’s hug warm the lingering chill of her last nightmare, which had been this morning. The sea again, the cold unforgiving sea with her hands bound and Luthor’s laughter ringing in her ears. The thought made her lip curl stubbornly; she would not let fear rule her. Although there was one thing left that she did fear….
“Daddy?” she said hesitantly, unaware how much she sounded like her six-year-old self.
“Yes, munchkin?” he asked, and Kala chuckled at the old nickname.
She got serious again, though, to ask her question. “Even if I’m not able to be out there with you and Jase or going to a fancy university like Lizardboy, is it okay? Are you still proud of me, even if I’m just a dive-bar singer right now?” Kala ignored the urge to allow her eyes to mist over. Even if she wasn’t what her Dad had planned these days, she still needed to hear it.
Kal-El looked at her steadily, and then kissed her forehead. “You are precious and wonderful to me, Kala. You’re brave, you’re smart, you’re always funny, and you’ve got the guts to chase your dreams. Of course I’m proud of you.”
That eased the worst of her worries, and she snuggled into his side lovingly. “Thank you, Daddy. I needed that.”